Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Caïna - Temporary Antennae

Reading David Gordon White's book on medieval South Asian Tantra and listening to Caïna's brilliant Post Black Metal album Temporary Antennae, images from the two works merged in my mind.

White's book describes medieval South Asian Tantra as a cult in which fierce bird-headed, flying goddesses - Yoginis - were placated by offerings of raw meat, alcohol and semen. Caïna's album presents us with a vision of England's hidden reverse in which the pastoral landscape is crawling with all sorts of beetles and larvae.

This imagery spilled over and into each other to produce a Dream Land in which Black Metal fans sacrifice raw meat, vodka, pills and semen to many-armed, insect-headed goddesses residing in picturesque English village cemeteries; a Dream Land in which ornate Gothic Revival architecture is merged with that of medieval Indian temples, decorated with sculptures of Christian saints in all conceivable states of undress and sexual positions; a Dream Land in which corpse-painted Siddhas fly over Ben Nevis, the Venomous Mountain; a Dream Land in which M.R. James leads a nocturnal double life as an immortal practitioner of left-handed Tantra in dark ant-nest-like catacombs beneath King's College, Cambridge; a Dream Land in which hosts of child-eating female deities, whose hateful cries sound like a downtuned cold black insect buzz, haunt Tintern Abbey; a Dream Land in which Satan's claw is the mandible of a huge stag beetle; a Dream Land in which not Euronymous but Jhonn Balance was Mayhem's sacrificial King.

From the larva of the short, Coil-like opening number, 'Temporary Antennae' pupates in a chrysalis of Lurker of Chalice-influenced Black Metal before emerging metamorphized into a many-colored yet sinister butterfly.

The opening track, 'Manuscript Found In Unmarked Grave, 1919', starts with echoing bells and percussion lost in a roaring drone and ends with a distorted voice (reminiscent of Jhonn Balance's voice on Musick To Play In The Dark 2) reading part of a poem. The poem is 'Grief', and it can be found at the end of the 1908 novel The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, a British writer of fantastic stories who was killed by an artillery shell at Ypres in April 1918.

When the voice has died down, a fierce, primitive-sounding guitar erupts: 'Ten Went Upriver'. This track shows clearly the influence on Caina of the work of US Black Metal musician Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice): the rawness bleeds into blackened sheets of shoegazer sound, melancholic ambient keyboards, and acoustic guitar.

With an intro that brings to mind Justin Broadrick's Jesu, the slowpaced, despondent, distorted psychedelia of the album's third track owes more to the Doom Metal of bands such as Warhorse than to Burzum and his kindred. The song ends with a long sample of the song “Willow Waly” sung by Isla Cameron imitating the voice of an eleven year old girl in Jack Clayton's classic 1961 film The Innocents.

The eerie faux-folk song from the film heralds a turn towards a more dreamy, folk-like music, influenced by Current 93, Death in June, early (1980–1982) The Cure and later (1991-1992) Swans. In these songs Caina proves that is he capable of more than merely following Wrest's 'freezing moon', creating a sound that departs even further than Lurker of Chalice from the orthodoxies of Black Metal. Musically, Lurker of Chalice relates to Caïna as Bauhaus relates to The Cure. But the meaning of the structural relationship extend beyond the strictly musical sphere. Where Wrest revels in extravagant nocturnal theatricality, artifice and aesthetics, Caïna chooses autobiography, personal experience, sensitivity, authenticity. Where Wrest attempts to overstrain the listener by means of a violent gloominess and unresolvable musical matter, Caïna is unafraid of creating harmonies. While Wrest runs the risk of becoming Camp, Caïna risks becoming sentimental to the point of weepiness. Though from a theoretical viewpoint I do not privilege the one approach above the other, Caïna's is more audacious in the context of Black Metal culture.

All in all I find Caïna's Temporary Antennae one of the most interesting - and perhaps the most interesting - Black Metal albums I bought in 2008. I've played it so often these last few weeks that if I'd bought it on vinyl the record would have turned a very pale shade of grey by now. Highly recommended!

Willows And Whippoorwills

Here is an excellent interview with Andrew Curtis-Brignell, the man behind Caïna.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of post-BM, have you heard of Xela? They started out out doing glitch/downtempo electronica but have progressed into explicitly post BM ambient experimental territory. Their album The Dead Sea is about Zombies wandering around on the bottom of the sea and attacking a passenger liner. They also have a new one which is very dark and has some interesting themes that I have barely penetrated. As someone who has read your blog for long time it seems like the sort of thing you might find interesting if you haven't come across it already. The label they are on Type Records generally puts out interesting things.


Anonymous said...

I second the Xela nomination. He comes at it from the direction of someone immersed in the post-Boards of Canada electronica world who slowly got noisier and noisier. The new album is awesome,and with a drummer on the last track, reaches near doom metal throb.
Valter, have you evaluated the new Menace Ruin album yet? Caina is not doing it for me.

valter said...

Thanks Dave & Fishskull,

Xela has been on my list of "need to investigate at close hand" for some time and I think your comments will prompt me to actually buy one of these cd's.

Menace Ruine looks intriguing too, but I haven't heard it yet (I try to download only OOP albums).

Anonymous said...

It's freshing to listen to a band that doesn't try to reconcile the different genres that are being used into some kind of hybrid for all the styles. Not that making a hybrid, with the styles that Caina chooses to employ, would be easy. Another metal act that did this (and more compellingly in my opinion) would be Somewhere Along the Highway from Cult of Luna. They put the genres side by side, for the most part, through the arrangements within the songs but didn't synthesize it into a "new sound".

Your take on Caina's album is interesting, to say the least! When I was listening to it, I was sitting there and thought that I liked it well enough--black metal here, shoegazer there, throw in a post-rock number for good measure--but then started to wonder about the ingredients in this soup and what it was exactly that I was supposed to be tasting. Usually when I start to understand the artist or band's intentions and what they are trying to communicate, then the different genres begin to make more sense in context of the entire album. I didn't have much luck with Temporary Antennae.

But if it's anything close to your review... hell!
Love the blog, btw.


Viagra Online said...

I love the cover of this album, that bettle remind me the Egyptian ancient gods, and the theme of the music of this band is incredible.